Friday, April 27, 2007

Learning a new instrument

Having started learning the cello a couple of weeks back, I now realised what a good decision it has been.

Not only has it brought the joy of hearing your playing sound better and better (how can it possibly get any worse at this point, right? :P ) with each practice, as well as benefiting (finally!) from a trained teacher (yeah, it's been almost 2 decades since I've last attended any music lessons properly); I have also gained something else - a realisation of what some of my guitar students at NUS & SMU must be experiencing.

This is an invaluable new experience to me, as after years of playing the classical guitar, I've come to a stage where it somtimes befuddles me how someone cannot understand or execute something seemingly SOOO basic to me.

For instance, i asked them to play appoyando (rest stroke) with alternating i-m fingers, while watching their wrist to make sure if doesnt 'collapse' and maintain the appropriate angle of attack on the strings.
This, some were able to do well, while others struggle...

And when I asked them to do a simple C-major scale (1 octave only, mind you!) using the above-mentioned right hand technique, all the bad habits reappear: using i-finger repeatedly; some resort to free-stroke; while others breakdown half-way through the scale.

I used to wonder why it is so difficult. But not anymore.

I guess a human brain can only do so many things at one time. And if you want to focus on ONE thing, it usually means you lose focus on something else. This i've experienced for myself during the last week(s) of cello lessons.

When my teacher asked me to read a VERY simple score, i tried desparately to read while maintaining the correct bowing technique. It was so tough! Of course, the fact that the cello has totally different string tunings (A-D-G-C) and the score was written in Bass clef didnt help...

But it really has been fun so far, and my only little concern is i may neglect my guitar practice - something i'm trying to prevent by bringing out both instruments everytime i practice, so that when my right hand tires after 15min of bowing, i pick up the guitar and practice (where usually my left hand tires more frequently).

Music is life, man!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Updates and thoughts

It has been an interesting week, the last one.

First, Masak performed for the University Awards night last Thursday evening at the UCC foyer, with our "newest and outgoing" member (ironic isn't it? :P ) - Wai.
The performance went pretty smoothly, I thought, given that we only rehearsed the entire programme in 2 sessions of practice.
(no, I'm not saying we are damned good. We are just damned bo-chap! hahaha)
In between Michelle's constant claims of "i need a mask!", and Alex's sudden switch to playing Alto 1 part for Nocturne (which he claimed was deliberate, but i somehow feel he just didnt realise he had the wrong set of part scores! heh) - we pulled it through.
Overall, quite an enjoyable experience.

Then, on Saturday, Raj and I had a lengthy discussion with Robert, mostly on the 2007/08 plans for Genus.
In the end, we generated a list of possible songs which could be considered for the concert come March '08. Again, he strongly hinted at wanting us to play concerto soloist(s) role in the concert. Guess we'll see about that...

But the most interesting thing was the "action" going on in the Practice theatre, where reliable sources later told us that the Suitcase General decided to give a 15 min speech on the virtues of practising! There was even something about him supposingly telling his "Gold-with-honours" troops that they would end up being poor COP (certificate of particiaption) holders if they practiced and performed like the Genus orchestra did in the Bach EMajor Concerto last month.

What arrogance!

I felt disappointed at not being part of this "action"... Darn!

Let's hope there's more of these in the coming workyear! hahahaa

Monday, April 16, 2007





<<沁圆春>>; 1936 年 2月 毛主席手书

Friday, April 13, 2007

Here, There and Everywhere

To lead a better life
I need my love to be here

Here, making each day of the year
Changing my life with a wave of her hand
Nobody can deny that there's something there

There, running my hands through her hair
Both of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking, but she doesn't know he's there

I want her everywhere
And if she's beside me I know I need never care
But to love her is to need her

Everywhere, knowing that love is to share
Each one believing that love never dies
Watching her eyes and hoping I'm always there

I want her everywhere
And if she's beside me I know I need never care
But to love her is to need her

I will be there, and everywhere
Here, there and everywhere

This song by the Beatles is truly beautiful...

I'll have to relearn the Takemitsu solo guitar arrangement's so nice!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What?!! Only $100k a month??

All this talk and "debate" over the increase in ministerial pay... absolutely bo-liao, in my opinion.

After years under this government, shouldn't Singaporeans wake up (or grow up) to the reality that when the government has decided on something, nothing but nothing will ever make them change their mind. It's ALWAYS a case of "We know what's best for you, so quit complaining". And to think they can tell Singaporean we are not interested enough about local politics and happenings... hah!

Just look the GST increases over the years. Just look at the integrated resort issue. Similarly, the increase in ministerial & top civil servants' pay package...

To me and most of my friends (my generation), we simply grew from being bitter and disgusted, to being cynical, and eventually to being totally resigned and disillusioned about the state of such matters here in Singapore.
It really is futile. To the point that I have refused to even read anymore of these articles in the newspapers which, incidentally, has been labelled as our 'government newspapers' by critics. It's not hard to see why - during the supposed "debate" period where the issue has been brought up, you'd constantly find the papers publishing headlines like:

"CEO takes home $10 million in bumper year!"

"Banker earns $5.6 million including bonuses!"

"Top earners in Singapore see hugh jump in pay package..."


After a while, this overt attempt (by the newspaper) at justifying the minister's 'miserly' $1.2 million pay package just seems really funny. Give us a break!

All said and done, let's move on and accept the fact that when one can self declare and justify one's own pay package, it's a no-brainer - who wouldnt give themselves a pay rise???

I know i would.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

My 1st cello lesson

I just had my first cello lesson today!

Although it was only a trial lesson, it was the first time i actually held the instrument properly, and had someone to guide me on how to hold the cello and the bow in the correct fashion, and had a taste of stretching my left-hands fingers beyond what is usually the required spacing in classical guitar.

And by the end of the 30min session, i could feel the muscles below my right thumb aching from the strain of holding up the bow and maintaining the right posture. My upper right shoulder also felt tired, as I wasn't relaxed enough, causing my muscles to tense up during playing.

I've also learned that Cello requires knowledge of 3 clefs - Bass, Tenor and the Treble clefs. I thought to myself, "Bass and treble clefs should be ok, since i've learnt them during my piano lessons, albeit years back. but tenor clef..?"
Fortunately, my teacher told me that beginners only need to know the bass clef as a start. So i'll worry about tenor clef much later, i guess. :P

Can't wait to get hold of my own cello, so i can start practising. Coming Wednesday shall be my first time using my own instrument. Really eagerly anticipating the day! :)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

An Evening of Classical Guitar music

It was an evening I will remember for a long time. Great ambience, superb sound, an appreciative audience, and we played our hearts out.

First, the venue. I believe we hit the jackpot this time, when I decided to write in for a venue sponsorship from the Singapore Art Museum. They promptly replied and we got a performance slot on 31st March 2007. Initially, my idea was to play in the Glass Hall, which I had previously attended a concert in, and it looked pretty cool. But as luck would have it, the Glass Hall was already booked by another group that night, and SAM offered us the Auditorium instead. And what a nice place that turned out to be, especially for a delicate sounding instrument like the classical guitar. It wasn't too large, but just enough to seat 150 people or so. Here's how the place looked it (picture taken during our sound test earlier on the day of performance):

Lots of friends and well wishers came to lend us support, including our dear mentor - Maestro Alex Abisheganaden, who had nothing but kinds words for us after the performance. He liked the more spanish sound pieces in the repertoire, which included Sevilla and Fandango, but less of the contemporary ones like Harumi suite and (a little surprisingly) Carnaval.
Ivan's guitar teacher, Ernest Kwok (arguably one the best local classical guitarist of our times) also came by to listen to our performance. He too was very appreciative and even suggested we play for a Yamaha event, featuring 4 silent guitars (plugged in)! haha.. that would be interesting :P

Some of my colleagues - Sandra and Thomas (my usual supporters! yay!) came, as well as Wilson, who commented, "whoa! i didnt know classical guitar could be played in so many ways!" Ex-colleagues Lina and Ken also came to lend their support and reminded me at the end of the recital to call them for future performances.

My old buddies wolf, tpk, pete and Tian How also came, some with their spouses and even kids. I didnt really get to talk to them much (i was busy 'entertaining' some of my other more inquisitive guests.haha), but i hoped they have had a great evening.

As for our repertoire, i felt we started off a little shaky (what's new.. cold fingers, anxiety..etc) with Sevilla, but by Cavatina we were moving along pretty ok.

Telemann's Concerto in D was pretty standard, some missing runs here and there, but generally I felt we fared much better than we did in the Open Mic event @ Esplanade Library just a couple of months back.

Baia was smooth and the tempo was great (for once!), and once we went into the tune, we never looked back, and song moved into good "cruise-control" mode. Chinese oldies medley was as usual, one of the audience's favourite, its catchy and familiar tunes, with some techniques (pizz, artificial harmonics, etc.) thrown in. Alex told me later that his 2 RP students who were there, actually asked him for the scores! :)

Harumi was, well... very Andrew York. ie. very modern and "mood" music. Not surprisingly, Along the Edge managed to put some ppl almost into sleep mode - not that we played badly though. I thought our rendition of Blue Ocean Echo/Country Gentleman came through quite well last night. (I'll have to watch the video to hear how we sounded though)

Lastly, our 2 fast-n-furious finale was the highlight of the night! I thought we played Fandango very, very well - not too much bones to pick on that one. And Carnaval's signature whistle-start and the all-time-fav "OOmmpH!" brought the concert to a nice high and close.


One more performance in our pockets, and this time, we gained some valuable experience playing to a closed door (proper hall) seated audience. I'm definitely looking forward to our next excursion soon!

If I may say so myself - Well done, Guitaresque!